Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Links

This and that for a sunny Saturday.

- Paul Wells discusses the clash shaping up between the Cons and the NDP:
Some 57 per cent of respondents said they’re dissatisfied with the Harper government, compared to 36 per cent who like it. Last month’s federal budget drew more unsatisfied reaction than satisfied, and respondents who associated themselves with “the left” outnumbered those sympathizing with “the right” everywhere except Ontario (where they tied) and the three Prairie provinces.

Those numbers don’t spell Conservative doom. They do suggest a non-Conservative alternative has a fighting chance. So too does another poll from Environics for the fledgling Broadbent Institute, which is dedicated to bankrolling polls that gladden the heart of one-time NDP leader Ed Broadbent. This one sure did the trick. It found majorities concerned about income inequality, willing to pay higher taxes to reduce inequality, and positively eager to watch the rich pay higher taxes to reduce income inequality.

So there’s potential traction for a larger-government alternative to the Conservatives. The more thoughtful people around Stephen Harper admit as much. They don’t think their man has shut down the political left, merely that he has managed to stay one step ahead of it while beginning to build a conservative alternative that can stay in the game for the long haul. More Canadians voted against the Conservatives last May 2 than for them. If those Canadians could unite behind one leader or party, Harper would be in trouble.
Today Harper clearly thinks he has global environmentalists on the run. He has dismantled his government’s in-house climate analysis capacity, he’s shutting down arm’s-length advice from the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, and he plans to clamp down on foreign financing of environmentalist groups in Canada. His current environment minister, Peter Kent, can hardly believe how lucky he is to help Harper get all this done.

If the population still believes the environment is worth a fight, such callous disregard for the pieties to which he once paid careful lip service will hurt Harper big time. But that’s a big “if.” Harper’s full-tilt promotion of oil sands development and natural-resource exports has so far caused much less public controversy than, say, his decision to prorogue Parliament unnecessarily at the start of 2010. Harper is betting that in a shaky economy most people will be in no mood to ask fancy questions about sustainability.
- But then, Matt Price points out how the Harper Cons' extreme anti-environmental stance is thoroughly alienating plenty of the B.C. voters who have contributed to their existing western base:
It is an irony that Stephen Harper, a proponent of decentralizing power to the provinces, now wants to override B.C. objections by declaring this pipeline to be a matter of "national interest" and attacking anyone opposed to it. But, now that his Ottawa runs on oil, the industry must get its way, regardless of what the people want.

Has Harper miscalculated? Since going on the attack in January, his party has dropped 16 points in B.C. polls. To be sure, B.C. has pockets of deep blue sympathetic to the Conservative cause, but as with B.C. culture in general, these are populists who don't like to see far-away Ottawa throwing its weight around like a bully.
In sum, the battle over the proposed Enbridge pipeline represents the clash of the new oil-driven Conservative coalition versus an unwilling province packed with people who have never been known to roll over and play dead. This will rock the country.

The last time a political party in Ottawa used a "national interest" argument to impose its energy agenda on a province, it poisoned the well there for generations. And as the planet burns, this time around it is about more than political poisoning, but about the actual poisoning of our atmosphere that those generations need for security and prosperity.
- Andrew Leach offers up a primer on some of the decisions to be made surrounding natural resource royalty rates. But it surely can't escape notice that he leaves out one rather important alternative - as there's no reason (other than an ideological refrain from the corporatist right) why profitable resources can't be developed by public entities rather than private ones if the result is a better deal for the citizens who own them.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone criticizes the Cons for resolutely refusing to learn from their own mistakes. And in that vein, Sheila Dabu Nonato reports that in pushing their online surveillance bill, the Cons are following a path that's just been found unconstitutional when it comes to existing wiretapping law.

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